Was moving to NYC everything you thought it would be?

Note: This post is the first post of the “Ask a Career Girl” Series.  I get questions and emails almost daily from readers, friends and Twitter followers and decided it was time to start answering the questions through posts.  The first question is actually from me to Jessica Girdwain, a friend of mine who started her career out in New York City and is now back in Chicago. -Nicole

Was moving to NYC everything you thought it would be?

By, Jessica Girdwain

Yes-but I admit, I went prepared. Summer before senior year I spent three months interning in the editorial department at CosmoGIRL! magazine and living in the NYU dorms. So, by the time I made the move to Manhattan, I already knew the subway system, picked out a favorite brunch spot, and had several contacts.

One month after graduation, I sold my car (which provided all the funds for my move and a small financial cushion), and hopped on a plane with two bags in tow, no apartment, and no job. (I did set up a 2-month sublet in Brooklyn-thanks Craigslist and two strangers!-so I was going somewhere after my plane landed in Newark).

After arriving, I was mentally ready for a long, tedious job hunt. I wanted a magazine gig, a job where positions only open up when another editor leaves. It took me five months to get a regularly paying position and nearly five more months to land one with benefits. During that time, I was rejected from 11 entry-level editorial jobs. The good thing: It’s a lot like that cliché about love. Once you find the perfect one (for me it was Prevention magazine), you realize why all the other ones didn’t work out.

Another challenge was finding a permanent apartment, no small task when you are young, unemployed, and broke. Leasing an apartment in Manhattan is akin to actually buying a place-you need to provide proof of employment, recent pay stubs, scanned bank statements, fabulous credit, sign it all in blood and offer up your first born. I paired up with a friend and fellow editor (in fashion) and here’s what we learned:

1) Consider a broker. I have a friend who stumbled into her apartment on her own, but this is rare. Without a broker, you will spend weeks, months walking through crappy places listed on Craigslist. With a broker, you will walk through semi-crappy places with a semi-professional. You’ll pay a hefty fee-about one months rent or 10 percent-but ours found us a place in two days.

2) Unless you make the equivalent of 40 times the monthly rent, you will need a guarantor, otherwise known as your parents. At the time we signed our lease, neither of us were employed, but the management company still accepted our application, thanks to my roommate’s father.

3) The apartment will probably be tiny. Ours was 1.5 bedrooms, 350 square feet, had natural light in one room only, and we spent a lot of time in our kitchen/living room/foyer/home office. If that doesn’t give you an accurate picture, it was seven of my feet (front to back) from couch to fridge. I wear a size 8.

4) And expensive. For the above, we paid $1849 (plus a 3-month rent security deposit). That was back in 2006. When they went to release the place, it leapt to $2100. Plus, people tend to look at me in shock when I told them how “little” it cost us. A friend who has a beautiful doorman 1-bedroom apartment in the Tribeca neighborhood has erected a wall to transform it into 2 (this is common). It’s a touch over $3300.

5) Think about Brooklyn, Queens, Hoboken NJ, other areas that can still be expensive, but provide more space if you don’t mind a train ride in.

So, it was hard, stressful, blah blah blah-but well worth it. Living in NYC is amazing, especially Central Park, the restaurants, nightlife, people, and general energy of the place. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for my career and me personally. I came back to Chicago to be closer to family, friends, and live in an apartment with windows. But I can’t deny that I don’t think about the city everyday.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.